Letter to the Presbytery of Newark


2. I cannot desist from preaching the doctrine of sanctification, and from testifying to my own experience of it, for the very same reasons that you cannot desist from preaching the doctrine of regeneration, and testifying to your own experience of that. Suppose that you were to insist that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), but when asked whether you or any one else had enjoyed that blessing, should say, “By no means. It is an important and dangerous error for any man to think so; it never takes place until death.” How much influence would such preaching exert? How many would be born again through such instrumentality? LPN 1.68

You feel yourselves under necessity, therefore, on that subject, to maintain that regeneration is a matter of experience, and that you and many others do enjoy it. But while you tell your people that they ought to be free from sin, and are wholly inexcusable for not being so, and while you pray that they may be redeemed from all iniquity, they know perfectly well that you have no expectation that it will take place while they live, and hence all your exhortations and prayers are wholly lost. Your people know that you expect that they will live along in sin until death, and that while you exhort them to be free from sin, you show them no way by which they may become so, and maintain that it would be an important and dangerous error for them to expect to be so until they die. Hence, all your efforts for the sanctification of God’s professing people, are rendered perfectly nugatory. LPN 1.69

For myself, therefore, I feel bound to tell professing Christians that there is a way whereby they may “cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1), that it may be done through the promises of God, which “are all yea, and Amen in Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20). LPN 1.70

When, therefore, with the apostle, “I labour, striving according to God’s Spirit, which worketh in me mightily, by warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:29, 28), I feel that I am not urging them to chase a phantom, which, however earnestly and laboriously sought, will elude their grasp till death; but that I am leading them to the enjoyment of a blessed and glorious reality, which is treasured up for them in Christ, and which they may every one of them secure and most richly enjoy. LPN 1.71

And when I am permitted, through the exceeding riches of God’s love in Christ Jesus, to say that I have experienced of the grace which I present to their acceptance, I have left them stripped of all excuses and palliations for their sins, and may therefore hope that God’s Spirit will attend His truth, and lead them in the way of knowledge and understanding. I can say to Christians, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). “God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7), while you by your own principles are obliged to tell them, that they are shut up, in some measure at least, to a life of sin. Brethren, I cannot stand on such ground, and therefore I must disregard your admonition. LPN 1.72

There seems to me to be a wonderful and strange inconsistency, in urging Christians to holiness of heart and life, and at the same time telling them that they never can be without sin while they live, and that if they think that Christ, who was manifested to take away their sins, will ever do it till He takes away their breath, they have embraced important and dangerous error. I feel constrained to say, in faithfulness to Christ and His dear people, though some may think it unkind, that those who attempt to maintain such ground, seem to me to be, and in a very important sense “shutting up of the kingdom of heaven against men: neither entering themselves, nor suffering those who would enter to go in” (Matthew 23:13). LPN 1.73

When the watchmen of Israel cry out in the ears of the people, that no man ever did or will abide in Christ and sin not, on earth, that God who has sworn to do it, and raised up Christ our horn of salvation to perform the oath, never will “grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75), what can we expect, but that many who desire deliverance from sin, will despair of attaining it, and submit in despondency to the will of their spiritual foes, and groan away their lives in grievous bondage, when they might be enjoying the liberty wherewith Christ would make them free; and that others, glad to have such an excuse for their sins, will comfort themselves in their worldliness, and their unhallowed indulgences by the feeling that they are not expected, while they live, to be free from sin. LPN 1.74

I will not attempt to conceal it, that this looks to me like a subtle and dangerous snare of the great enemy of Christ and His church. Herein it seems to me lies the “important and dangerous error,” and not in telling Christians that their Redeemer “is faithful to sanctify them wholly, and to preserve their whole spirit and soul and body blameless to H is coming” (1 Thessalonians 5:23), when they will believe in Him for that blessing. LPN 1.75